Reading the transcript of Hillary Clinton’s speech to the Council on Foreign Relations is a painful experience. (It’s almost as painful as watching the video of her speech.) Early in the speech, Mrs. Clinton said “The United States and our international coalition has been conducting this fight for more than a year. It’s time to begin a new phase and intensify and broaden our efforts to smash the would-be caliphate and deny ISIS control of territory in Iraq and Syria. That starts with a more effective coalition air campaign, with more allied planes, more strikes and a broader target set.”
That first sentence isn’t credible. First, the US-led coalition is a list of countries that haven’t lifted a finger to prosecute a war. They’re mostly just names that essentially said that they were willing to be part of a coalition as long as they didn’t have to do anything. Next, it’s intellectually dishonest to say that the US-led coalition “has been conducting this fight for more than a year.” Flying an average of 7 sorties a day isn’t fighting. During the air campaign for Operation Desert Storm, the first Gulf War, the coalition flew an average of 1,100 sorties per day. That’s fighting the enemy.
Further, the US-led coalition airstrikes were so devastating that Iraq flew its jets into Iran and kept them there until Operation Desert Storm was in the history books. Those airstrikes were devastating because they targeted Saddam Hussein’s governing infrastructure. Against ISIS, President Obama’s rules of engagement, aka ROE, were so restrictive that the pilots weren’t allowed to hit oil tanker trucks driving away from ISIS-controlled refineries.
Again, that isn’t the definition of fighting. This is the definition of a straw man argument:
Like President Obama, I do not believe that we should again have 100,000 American troops in combat in the Middle East.
American military consultants aren’t advocating for 100,000 American troops on the ground to decimate ISIS. They’re advocating directly arming the Kurds in northeastern Iraq. They’re advocating arming the Jordanians because it’s in Jordan’s interest to decimate ISIS. That’s because Jordan is getting overrun with refugees, some of whom are fleeing Syria, some of whom are fleeing ISIS-controlled territory in Iraq.
On the Iraqi side of the border, Kurdish forces have fought bravely to defend their own lands and to re-take towns from ISIS, but the Iraqi national army has struggled, and it’s going to take more work to get it up to fighting shape.
It isn’t about getting the Iraqi national army “up to fighting shape” as much as it is about proving to the Sunnis in western Iraq that the United States will always have their back. The problem didn’t appear until President Obama announced that his administration was pulling all US forces out of Iraq. After the Surge during the Bush administration, President Bush promised to keep US troops committed to Iraq. That led to the Anbar Awakening. Iraqi troops performed valiantly.
The minute that President Obama abandoned Iraq, something that Mrs. Clinton enthusiastically supported, is the minute the Anbar Awakening died. This paragraph is dishonest:
In the first Sunni awakening in 2007, we were able to provide sufficient support and assurances to the Sunni tribes to persuade them to join us in rooting out Al Qaeda. Unfortunately, under Prime Minister Maliki’s rule, those tribes were betrayed and forgotten.
First, it’s true that al-Maliki couldn’t be trusted. That wasn’t the problem, though. Things were still working fine despite al-Maliki. The problem started the minute President Obama betrayed the Sunnis. It’s perfectly understandable why Mrs. Clinton wouldn’t tell the whole truth about that. She was the Secretary of State when the Obama administration abandoned the Sunnis.
So the task of bringing Sunnis off the sidelines into this new fight will be considerably more difficult. But nonetheless, we need to lay the foundation for a second Sunni awakening. We need to put sustained pressure on the government in Baghdad to get its political house in order…
How can the person who totally abandoned the Sunnis lay the groundwork for a new trust relationship? If your life was threatened and your closest ally left, it isn’t likely that you’d give them another chance. Once a trust is broken, which happened when President Obama pulled the troops out and Mrs. Clinton failed at negotiating a satisfactory Status of Forces agreement, it takes a long time to rebuild that trust. That’s why it isn’t likely that they’ll trust Mrs. Clinton in the future. Finally, there’s this:
In September, I laid out a comprehensive plan to counter Iranian influence across the region and its support for terrorist proxies such as Hezbollah and Hamas. We cannot view Iran and ISIS as separate challenges.
Mrs. Clinton also supported the negotiations with Iran on their nuclear program. That didn’t play well in the Arab world because they don’t trust the Iranians. Because of Mrs. Clinton’s support of Iran’s nuclear program, Arab nations will naturally have an arm’s-length relationship with Mrs. Clinton.
That’s why it’s doubtful that Arab nations want Mrs. Clinton as the next US president. They’d prefer someone whose heart is into cultivating the international relationships that help protect nations.